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New York Met's injured conductor returns

The music director at New York's Metropolitan Opera, James Levine, has recovered from a back injury and will return to conducting from next May -- in a wheelchair, the Met said.

"The Metropolitan Opera's Music Director will return to conducting on May 19, 2013, with the MET Orchestra at Carnegie Hall," a statement from the orchestra, released on Thursday, said.

"He will then lead three operas in the Met's 2013-14 season, including a new production of Verdi's 'Falstaff' and revivals of Mozart's 'Cosi fan tutte' and Berg's 'Wozzeck.' He will also conduct all three Carnegie Hall concerts that season."

The 69-year-old conductor bowed out last year following a vertebra injury in a fall while on holiday in Vermont. He had already suffered numerous back problems.

Levine said: "I'm feeling better with each passing day and look forward to returning to the company I love so much."

The injury in August 2011 had left Levine partially paralyzed and doctors cheered his strong recovery during a course of rehabilitation.

"James Levine is an inspirational case, whose return to conducting will be a result of remarkable perseverance and hard work," said Len Horovitz, the doctor who coordinates the conductor's medical team.

According to Levine's neurosurgeon, Patrick O'Leary, there will no need for further surgery. "His upper body strength is remarkable and his prognosis is good," he said.

However, Levine will for the time being need a motorized wheelchair, the Met said.

"While his upper body strength has returned and he is progressing with his rehabilitation, the injuries have left him temporarily unable to walk," the statement said.

"In anticipation of his return, the Met's technical department is designing customized, elevating podiums that will be utilized on the Carnegie Hall stage and in the Met's orchestra pit."

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